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Erica Meltzer

Un Juif pour l’exemple (A Jew Must Die)

By Jacques Chessex

Un Juif pour l’exemple (A Jew Must Die)

This slim, grim and riveting novella is based on a true story, about a Swiss Jew who was brutally murdered by Nazi thugs in 1942. Written at times in the first person plural, at times in a more neutral third person, it is a passionate condemnation of Swiss society both then and now in which the author makes a brief but memorable appearance. Graphic, grisly depictions and metaphors of butchery pervade the book, along with deft character sketches of the victim, a portly cattle merchant, and his obsessive, small-minded murderers. The writing is precise and economical, earthy and sinister – almost as clinically detailed as a police blotter. The fact that you know what is to come only deepens the suspense and horror.

Chessex, who was also a painter, was the first non-French citizen to win the prestigious Prix Goncourt, in 1973, and died in 2009.

 

This book – the last to be published in his lifetime – was made into a film by his fellow countryman Jacob Berger (see poster below).